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An Open Letter To Alex Neil

Dear Alex,

Who knows if you will ever read this, or have ever even read this website! Few could blame managers for not really paying too much attention to the media.

I’m writing this a matter of hours after your exit from Preston announced, and it’s only fair to publicly thank you for your work at Deepdale since arriving back in 2017.

Almost four years ago, you were my pick to become Preston boss; when the deal went through, and that first season was one few will forget.

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We were superb all season, truly deserving of a play-off place in my opinion, but we sadly came up just short. Still, that first season was exactly what I had been looking for in a North End side; energetic, committed, a side that nobody in the Championship wanted to face.

That summer of 2018 still feels like a missed opportunity. Jordan Hugill and Greg Cunningham had gone, but it never really felt like enough quality was added to really kick on after an outstanding first season.

That almost feels like a common theme throughout your reign at Preston; losing key players and not really being able to replace the quality, for whatever reason that may be.

Yet nobody can ever really doubt your commitment to the cause regardless; through more than one injury crisis, through losing important players, through frustrating transfer windows, we always knew that you were truly passionate about North End.

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Even when other Championship clubs came calling, you stayed loyal and wanted to see the job through; after such a great first season, you probably knew the potential was there. The top six had been within grasp, but sadly remained so years on.

There were so many derby wins along the way; consistently beating Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic and especially Blackburn Rovers made us so proud, as did the way you took to Gentry Day, again showing how you had truly bought into the culture at Deepdale.

No Preston managerial departure has really made me feel as sad or emotional as this one. This has been such a great run, a truly enjoyable time to be a Preston fan, and seeing this era end with three straight defeats hardly feels befitting of a manager who gave us so much.

You lived and breathed North End, gave us genuine hope of reaching the Premier League and helped developed a hugely talented crop of players. For large parts of your tenure, many rival fans wanted to be like Preston, fight like Preston, recruit like Preston and, often, wanted to pinch you away from us.

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Your tactical insights and explanations gave me a new desire to understand tactics, and I know I’m not the only fan that feels this way. No other Preston manager in my time as a fan really made me think in that way, and that kind of influence is something that managers rarely hear, but deserve to hear.

It’s genuinely sad to see it end this way; we’ve lost managers before in various ways and circumstances, but this one brings absolutely no enjoyment. There is certainly a feeling of loss, of reflection on missed opportunities and disappointment that this had to come to an end.

These are tough enough times as they are, but this job has been understandably stressful, and losing a job is never easy, so from Deepdale Digest and no doubt many other fans – take it easy, look after yourself and get back to football when you’re ready. We have absolutely no doubt that you will be a success elsewhere whenever that day comes.

Thank you Alex.

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